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Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and The Bomb Paperback – April 1, 2010


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Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and The Bomb + Heisenberg's War: The Secret History Of The German Bomb + Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934137286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934137284
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Drawing on captured Nazi documents found in Soviet archives and other recently released materials, Cassidy (J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century) offers a new view of the German wunderkind Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976), who won the 1932 Nobel Prize in physics for revolutionizing the nascent field of quantum physics, first with his matrix interpretation of quantum mechanics, then with his famous uncertainty principle. What Cassidy seeks to understand is why Heisenberg chose—indeed fought—to remain in Germany under the Nazi regime and then took a leadership role in its efforts to split the atom. Heisenberg later rationalized these activities, but Cassidy shows that the account in the scientist's memoirs doesn't always agree with evidence in the recovered documents. Heisenberg's famous wartime meeting with his one-time mentor Niels Bohr in Copenhagen is parsed in detail as Cassidy considers their conflicting accounts. Exhaustively detailed yet eminently readable, this is an important book, though it moves too quickly through Heisenberg's 30 postwar years. Photos. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

David C. Cassidy is the author of "J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century," "Einstein and Our World," and "Uncertainty." Professor of Natural Sciences at Hofstra University, he has served as Associate Editor of "The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein."

More About the Author

Historian of science at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. For more information, see http://www.dcassidybooks.com/dc.html

Customer Reviews

A very informative interesting history of Heisenberg and the Nazi struggle for the bomb.
William James
Lustig points out the basic difficulty in writing a biography of an emminent scientist without really being able to present adequately his scientific achievements.
Prof Aharon Loewenstein
Specifically, they tried to eliminate all references to Einstein and relativity, and, just for good measure, quantum mechanics as well.
G. H. Lander

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By G. H. Lander on September 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb
David C. Cassidy
Bellevue Literary Press, NY, 2009

David Cassidy has written what surely must be the definitive work on Werner Heisenberg. He clearly likes the subject, as this is his second book on the same person! The previous one: "Uncertainty: The life and science of Werner Heisenberg" appeared in 1991. The present book draws on more material, has a wider scope, and at least on the subject of the German nuclear-weapon program draws conclusions that would appear to this reviewer as beyond contention.

After a brilliant career, the Nobel Prize in physics at the age of 31 (in 1932), Heisenberg was faced with the onset of the Nazi regime. His love of his country and culture meant that he refused to leave Germany. He never joined the Nazi party, but was faced with living, and working, with the regime. Cassidy finds this the most fascinating aspect of Heisenberg, and it is difficult to disagree.

Many of Heisenberg's actions appear difficult to comprehend with the advantage of hindsight; for example, the famous visit to Niels Bohr in 1941 (the subject of Michael Frayn's wonderful play) is covered in length. We also (since 2002) have the advantage of the Bohr archives to set the record straight on this visit. Cassidy puts them in perspective with what Heisenberg had to suffer at the hands of not only the regime, but also the German clique (led by Nobel Laureates Stark & Lenard) who promoted "Aryan Physics". Specifically, they tried to eliminate all references to Einstein and relativity, and, just for good measure, quantum mechanics as well. Heisenberg's work was inextricably tied into both concepts, and he was vigorously attacked.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By nomdeplume on May 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am not a scientist but I was introduced to QM by a lecture I stumbled upon. That being said I have started to read several books on the matter. Alice in Quantumland etc.

I really like this book but it is really intense. It is not easy reading and takes a fair amount of understanding of QM and german, bavarian, prussian politics...beer hall putsch anyone?

What effort this book takes (for me it was alot) is equally rewarded with an amazing tale of the search for an explanation to the laws and understanding of sub atomic particles. These men had to invent new methods to actually describe what the secondary and tertiary effects of what they were doing.

Check it out.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Metallurgist TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a biography of Werner Heisenberg, from birth to death (actually before his birth, since it covers both his father and his paternal grandfather). While not formally divided as such; the book is divided into two parts, Heisenberg's life and physics before the Nazi assumption of power in Germany and what happened during and after. The first section describes Heisenberg's development as a physicist and provides a good picture of Germany and German science before 1933. It also shows Heisenberg's personal life, especially his involvement with the German youth movement and his involvement with the crushing of the communist government of Bavaria that formed in the aftermath of WWI. It covers the physics that he developed, but only in a superficial manner. This is not a physics book, but aspects of his physics are discussed. I found the discussion of his opposition to Schrodinger's wave approach to be illuminating, as well as his eventual acceptance of the Copenhagen interpretation of it and its incorporation of his uncertainty principle. As noted, the presentation of the physics he developed is very general, but I feel may nonetheless be indecipherable to someone who has no previous exposure to the concepts of physics, especially quantum mechanics. However, if they are willing to ignore any confusion that this presentation may engender they will be rewarded by an interesting biography. Those, like myself, who are familiar with these concepts, will be treated to the story of the evolution of this field and perhaps to a clarification of some points of controversy - I found this to be the case as it clarified Heisenberg's position relative to that of Schrodinger, Bohr and Born.

The second part of the book is equally interesting.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Dachs on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just started reading the book and I find it very interesting and very well written, but I feel that I have to comment on the physical book itself--

It is not an inexpensive book, but it is cheaply made---small print, thick cheap rough paper, bad photos printed on poor paper stock--

All in all, a book that looks that it will fall apart in several years---it is an argument for ebooks---
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on October 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I appreciated the parts about Heisenberg's youth and student days, as they helped provide some of the psychological framing for later chapters. I also appreciated some discussion of German academic politics.

I knew all the basics about Heisenberg and matrix mechanics, the original formulation of the uncertainty principle, and the later energy x time rephrasing of it in response to Einstein.

But, the "Beyond" of the title was what I was really into this book for.

I'd read thumbnail sketches of Heisenberg's war work, his 1942 meeting with Bohr and more. But nothing in detail. Nor had I read anything about his debriefings in Britain's famous Farm Hall.

Well, Cassidy provides as much of the details as it seems we have today.

Heisenberg wasn't deliberately slow-footing the German program. He was, despite being a theoretician, incompetent in some ways, such as not recognizing graphite would work as a moderator, and apparently (though information is conflicting) overestimating how much U-235 was needed for a uranium bomb, though he did recognize the potential of transmuted Pu-239.

That said, the idea that he in particular, or as he claimed to the British at the end of time at Farm Hall, German physicists in general, weren't trying to make a bomb? Laughable; Cassidy shows this.

And, his visit to Bohr? Even if not a clumsy attempt at fishing for what Bohr knew about Allied research, it was part of a Nazi cultural mission to Denmark, and therefore grossly insulting at the least. Heisenberg's postwar memories of this, Cassidy shows, are also "iffy" at best.

Cassidy does a great job of showing a brilliant researcher with more than just feet of psychological clay, far more. This is a great read for Heisenberg's involvement with trying to create a German bomb, and with this being the culmination of a psychological campaign for "recognition" by Nazi authorities and more.
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